Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Blue Ridge valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "mystery, death, beauty, violence."

Curriculet Details
56 Questions
55 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in the ninth and tenth grades, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining transcendentalism, the role of nature, and self-realization. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about theme and imagery. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of textual evidence, theme and summary, and diction. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1

Use the "Define" tool. Why does the author use the descriptor 'pummel' in this sentence? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. 
This passage contains great imagery. Watch the video below for a definition. How does this imagery help you to understand the feelings of the author, Dillard? (This annotation contains a video)
How does the narrator express the view of survival and living? How might this be the beginning of a theme? 
What is the narrator trying to say about what humans should focus on? 
In the highlighted passage, why does Dillard compare herself to a newborn baby? 
What do you think Dillard means when she says 'something' repeatedly? 

Chapter 2

Henry David Thoreau was a 19th Century author, poet, naturalist, and a leader in the Transcendental movement. Transcendentalism is the belief that a person goes beyond themselves. Their understanding of their existence and of the world goes beyond their senses. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Dillard mean when she says nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't affair. 
Dillard is saying she misses the utterly common miracles, yet continuously searches for the extraordinary. What does this say about human nature? 
Why is Dillard explaining kayak sickness to the reader? 
The video below is a time lapse of the Perseid meteor shower from 2012. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is looking dangerous business? 
Why does a bivouac not offer a real haven? Use the define tool to learn what bivouac means. 
Why is seeing everything except color tormentingly difficult? 
Dillard spoke earlier of nature being a now-you-see-it now-you-don't. Now she is talking about how transcending herself helps her see nature's beauty. How does this align with transcendentalism's belief? 
Is it nature that changed or Dillard that changed in order to find the beauty? 

Chapter 3

What does the story of the starlings illustrate? 
Why does the author describe the winter in these terms? 
Use the Define tool to define the word 'pique.' Why would the evidence of burned books lead Dillard to think the bookstore owners were piqued? 
Reread the highlighted passage. What is Dillard saying about humanity? 
What is strange to Dillard about the way frogs live? 
Below is an example of what an oxbow looks like. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Dillard feel about spiders? 
Why does Dillard use a play on words to emphasize her point? 

Chapter 4

The picture below is an example of the praying mantis egg case. (This annotation contains an image)
Why did the praying mantises in the mason jar eat each other? 
What is Dillard's opinion of her childhood teachers? 
Why would the author compare the Polyphemus moth to a wraith? 
Watch the video on theme. What theme can you see emerging with the praying mantis and moth stories? (This annotation contains a video)
In this chapter, Dillard gives several instances of humans either intentionally or accidently harming nature's creatures. What is Dillard saying about humans? 
How do shadows define what is real for us? 
How has Dillard's tone changed concerning insects? 
Who is the author calling "a deranged manic depressive"? 
The example of the catepillars is something to keep in mind as you continue reading. The caterpillars keep going despite the circumstances. Think about how humans do the same thing. Fabre says it shows stupidity, but what do you think? 

Chapter 5

Dillard uses a metaphor to compare spring to  
Do you agree that there is a little bit of every season in each season? 
Chapters 1-5 Quiz 
What two things does Dillard compare to the power we seek? 

Chapter 6

Why does she say the human conversation is not a normal consciousness for her? 
Dillard claims once we name the feeling we have in a moment, we lose the connection. Do you agree that we lose the connection once we put a name to the feeling? 
Which type of consciousness does Dillard value most? 
Why do our feelings, memory, and eidetic memory impact the present? 
Why is courage a function of innocence? How do aging and fear effect courage? 
Read the highlighted passage. What does the imagery suggest about consciousness? 
What does the author compare the movement of tree roots growing to? 
Why is counting the dead considered night work? 
Why is looking upstream important? 

Chapter 7

How do the stories of learning French and the mockingbird share with us another theme? 
Why is the question we should be asking "why is it beautiful?"  
Why does the boy stop torturing the newts? 
Why does the name "Sweet Dreams" ring in the author's mind? 
Why does the pond remind Dillard of Jean White's horse? 
What is happening to the creatures under her microscope? 
Why does the author feel the microscopic animals deserve respect? 

Chapter 8

What do the fish's capillaries remind the author of? 
What connection between plants and animals is Dillard making? 
What does it mean when the author says that "evolution...is a vehicle of intricacy"? Do you agree with her argument? 
Below is a picture of the kidney and Henle's loop. Think about how small it is and what she is saying is the importance of this tiny loop. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Dillard mean when she says "form follows function". 
What is the creator's greatest gift? 
What emotion overtakes Dillard when she thinks of the texture and it's meaning? 
What does Dillard's dream tell us we need to do with our lives? 
Why is it a wonder that there is beauty in everything? 

Chapter 9

What makes Dillard say "the day had an air of menace"? 
Below is a picture of Mark Spitz. Prior to Michael Phelps, Spitz was the Olympic gold medal record holder. What is Dillard alluding to when she says he couldn't survive the flood? (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of the original Queen Mary. Think about the size of the Queen Mary and the author's comment. Can you visualize what the Dillard is seeing? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the story of the snapping turtle say about nature? 
Read the linked article about Agnes. How does the historical account compare to Dillard's description? (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter 10

The video discusses point of view and cultural perspective. We are reading the first person perspective, but it is the cultural perspective we want to focus on. The tone and mood of the author is changing and it affects her cultural perspective. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is Dillard appalled by the idea of fecundity? 
Why has Dillard decided that her previous vision of nature was too optimistic? 
Why is bamboo used as a torture tool? 
Reread the highlighted sentence. How does this statement show a change in attitude towards animals? Make sure to use the define feature if you do not know the meaning of any of these words.  
Why does she compare human indifference towards lesser creatures to God's possible view of us? 
Why are the pressures to eat and breed mystifying to Dillard? 
What analogy does Dillard use to explain survival of the fittest? 
Why does Dillard consider humans to be the freaks of nature? Do you agree with the author? 
Chapters 6-10 Quiz 
Earlier, Dillard stated "death that is spinning the globe."  Now she returns to the idea that death is part of the creator's plan in the highlighted section. How does this reinforce the theme that nature is cyclical and continuous? 

Chapter 11

Why is the way the Eskimos trap the birds both cruel and ingenious? 
What is Dillard stalking in summer? 
According to the text, why are fish spirit food? 
Below is a video of a dragonfly laying eggs. How does this help you visualize what Dillard is observing? (This annotation contains a video)
Below is a picture of a water strider. Have you ever seen one of those before? (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below on hyperbole. How is this highlighted sentence an example of hyperbole? What does it convey to you about how Dillard is feeling? (This annotation contains a video)
How is Dillard using imagery and hyperbole to share her experience with the reader? 
What is the argument Dillard is pointing out by mentioning the Principle of Indeterminacy? 

Chapter 12

Here, Dillard is using an extended metaphor. What is she comparing the grasshopper experience to? 
Think back to transcendentalism. Read the highlighted statement; is she being literal or figurative? 
Why does Dillard enjoy crossing the dam? 
How is Dillard intertwining theology with her reasoning? 
Read the highlighted passage. Dillard explains how she interferes with the bobwhite's search. She calls it tough. She often labels the situations in this book that are similar as tough. What does she mean by using this word in those situations? 
As you read, it is always important to think about the influences that time periods or literary movements had on the author of the text. Watch the following video and consider where you see the effects of transcendentalism in this text.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 13

Why is Dillard unconcerned about meeting a copperhead or timber rattler? 
Read the highlighted passage. What is the "it" Dillard is speaking of? 
Why does the author compare parasites' lives to inventors' work? 
What does Dillard mean when she states the creator is no Puritan? 
Why does Dillard respect predators more than parasites? 
What is another phrase for "chomp or fast"? 
How are humans nibbled on? 
What emotion is Dillard expressing in this passage? 
Use the Define tool for the word 'facile.' What is a synonym for the word in this context? 

Chapter 14

"Zugunruhe" is a German compound word that translates into movement/migration and restlessness/anxiety. It is often used when referring to bird migration. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is everything restless during the fall? 
The highlighted statement shows Dillard has some wanderlust. Wanderlust the term for having a strong desire to wander, explore, and travel. 
Below is a picture taken during a monarch butterfly migration. (This annotation contains an image)
Dillard is using strong imagery to usher out the end of fall. What is the tone of this passage? 
Read the highlighted passage. What is shocking to Dillard? 

Chapter 15

What inspires Dillard to try the Roman's theory? 
How does the old Eskimo story reflect another theme Dillard writes about? 
Below is a picture of a maple key. Why does this inspire Dillard so much? (This annotation contains an image)
Dillard contradicts herself. She says there's no guarantee, but in the highlighted passage, she shows there is one guarantee. What is it? 
Chapters 11-15 Quiz